The “Museo de Arqueología del Occidente, Lic. José Parres Arias” located on 16 de Septiembre Av. #889 in downtown Guadalajara, offers exhibitions from pre-Hispanic archeological sites, particularly from the Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.
The first exhibition area is the Jalisco exhibition, which includes pre-Hispanic clay pieces for domestic use and ceremonial gatherings, as well as sculptures that represented important characters such as gods, as well as common people in their daily routines, executed using different kinds of clay and colors.
You will also see, along with coins used by the native “Los Toltecas” people, pieces of volcanic stone women used to grind corn and other artifacts used to process food. Corn was a very important and precious food in the mid-Americas, and was worshipped in ceremonies and represented by gods.
The Colima Exhibition shows an amazing collection of dog sculptures, vessels and pots, which were found in tombs in agricultural lands in the state of Colima. These sculptures are thought to have been used in religious or ceremonial gatherings, and some even say the natives thought these dogs represented guides for the soul of the dead into the underworld. But their real meaning remains uncertain.
Other clay sculptures represent the witches or “shamans” believed to govern native societies. One collection that really caught my eye were fantastic, 20-foot high figures in the shape of two bodies, attached at their backs, holding with their two heads a great serpent formed in an arc. Some say these figures represent day and night, life and death and rain and drought, since the natives worshipped gods who represented precious commodities such as rain and the sun.
Fauna and flora also played an important role for native societies, and were represented in figures of different colored clay. Plants, for example, were considered deities and certain of their characteristics were attributed to spirits, who could be very powerful and mysterious.
Another important sculpture is of the face of the God of the rain “Tlaloc”, with an expression of fright or even horror, that make it one of the most complex and monumental pieces in the museum.
One of the most interesting pieces is a red clay pot sculpture representing a man resting his head upon his forearms. While the character’s face is hidden because of his position, a close-up photograph shows the face was molded accurately and expresses pain.
The pottery pieces of Nayarit, consisting of pots, bottles and plates, are distinguished by the elegance of their painting and decoration.
Entrance fees are 5 pesos (39 cents $USD). The museum is open 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM and 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM Monday through Friday, and closed Saturdays.